When Duke University class of 2008 arrived on campus to start their freshman year, they had no idea they would become pioneers. Why? Because each of the incoming freshmen received a free iPod as part of a program aimed at fostering innovative uses of technology in the classroom. I led the Apple team that helped Duke experiment with creative academic uses for the devices and I was on campus when the students received their free iPods; it was memorable as the students cheered with excitement as each one was given their new mobile device.
Duke preloaded the iPods with freshman-orientation information, an academic calendar, a welcome message from the president and even the Duke fight songs. With time, students were able to download course content, recorded lectures, foreign language lessons, and audio books from a special Duke website. This early mobile device created new levels of engagement and interest in on-campus activities among the students.
Since then, the use of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets on college and university campuses has grown exponentially. But it’s not just students or prospective students using these devices; faculty, alumni and fans also expect to have engaging and immersive communications with higher education institutions. Mobile devices are prolific and so is the demand for content that keeps readers connected and up to date.
With their audiences consuming content on mobile devices, savvy colleges and universities are changing their approach, making their digital and mobile strategy a priority. Through digital publishing and mobile-ready content, school communications can be experienced in fresh, modern ways.
Expanding the Inner Circle
Many colleges and universities are recognizing that a strong mobile presence through Apps is leading the way to a connected experience for prospective students, fans or alumni. Schools can leverage content assets from across the campus to drive applications, increase fundraising, improve student communications and expand their reach to more fans.
From athletic departments and admissions offices to faculty research and alumni relations, digital publishing is playing a leading role in how schools project their brand and share their content. The athletic department at the University of Notre Dame is a good example of a school growing its audience by giving people the content they want. The department entertains fans with rich, interactive tablet apps that deliver engaging, multi-screen experiences. The apps support the enthusiasm of fans by enabling them to access, explore, and share information – before, during and after games. What’s also exciting is that the school secured 74,000 total app launches and acquired more than one million content impressions within weeks of launch.
Similarly, the UCLA Anderson School of Management wanted the print edition of its alumni magazine, Assets, to reflect their focus on innovation. The business school created Assets Digital, an interactive set of experiences filled with rich media and real-time features, available as an app for the iPad. The digital edition offered the potential to expand readership from approximately 35,000 registered alumni to millions of tablet computer owners interested in the latest developments in business, news and UCLA Anderson culture.
Another example of a school that is recognizing the importance of a comprehensive digital strategy leveraging digital publishing is the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina. The school created The UNC Business App and is seeing between 4-6 launches per download on the app—a significant engagement improvement over the print magazine given typical behaviors around re-reading a physical magazine. And, the Corcoran Art and Design School launched a beautifully designed Viewbook App that enables the school to reach a broader audience internationally and reduce print and distribution costs by going digital. It brings the campus culture of the Corcoran to life for prospective students, the next best thing to actually being there.
Universities are also using digital publishing to share research and communicate complex ideas. Case Western Reserve, for example, created Respiratory Recovery, a digital publication about the pioneering research of neurologist Dr. Jerry Silver. To explain the effects of a high cervical injury to the spine, the app includes an interactive three-dimensional spinal cord diagram that can be rotated with a swipe of a finger. The diagram also includes written descriptions as well as an audio clip of Dr. Silver providing additional information.
Publishers and corporations are also increasing the use of apps to meet their business goals and that is why schools are increasingly teaching digital publishing skills to their students. For example, digital publishing plays a key role at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications. The schools mobile media course empowers students to produce OR Magazine, a digital magazine of happenings in and around the state of Oregon. Students gain practical experience developing digital apps – skills that more and more companies are demanding.
Ten years after Duke gave its class of 2008 those content-loaded iPods, digital publishing has become the new imperative for universities that want to get ahead, or even stay competitive. Savvy marketers on college campuses recognize the importance of a strong digital strategy to reach and engage their audiences and are quickly seeing positive results. They are reaching more prospective students internationally, improving foundation and advancement results, expanding their fan base and even helping to meet their sustainability goals.
As colleges and universities continue to implement more apps, we’ll see improvement in the use of digital content to help bring the school experience to life. And we’ll see school audiences becoming more engaged, even contributing their own content and stories to make the experience even more engaging and rich.
—Karen McCavitt is worldwide marketing group manager for higher education at Adobe